Today’s technology speeds driver-office interaction, workflow
Until recently, new drivers for TransAm Trucking were being trained for 2½ hours on how to record hours of service properly on paper logbooks. Now training takes 15 minutes, and no paper is involved. “The learning curve is much less,” says Russ McElliot, president of the Olathe, Kan.-based company.
Similar to most commercial driving positions, working for TransAm has become more complex. Drivers face new regulations and are expected to meet higher performance standards – but that doesn’t mean more training time. At TransAm, the opposite has been true since 2008 when the company began installing a new in-cab computing platform from Blue Tree Systems.
Today, a driver turns on the ignition and sees his performance metrics from the previous workday. Color-coded bar charts give insight into how his mpg, speed, rpm and engine idle time compare to the current fleet average.
“We simplify some things for the driver to make the process more accurate.”
– Randy Boyles,
PeopleNet vice president of tailored solutions
TransAm began using this daily reporting system last November. Since then, drivers in the bottom 20 percent of mpg have improved by 0.1 mpg on average. Assuming the trend holds, McElliot estimates an annual savings of $1.8 million in fuel.
“It gives drivers more real-time information,” he says. “Everyone does better with instant feedback.”
In December, TransAm converted to electronic logs from Blue Tree Systems. A feature called HOS Advisor is available at the press of a button. Drivers have live information on remaining hours and advice for what duty status will yield the most productive use of their remaining time.
“(HOS Advisor) makes it much easier for our support staff,” McElliot says. “The interaction that drivers have with safety and compliance since we went to HOS Advisor has been reduced by half.”
Besides simplifying compliance, drivers use the technology to breeze through pretrip inspections, plan routes and communicate with the office electronically. Drivers also can view settlement and payroll details and track their progress through required training.
Just as consumers are replacing personal computers with smartphones and tablets, the transportation industry is embracing next-generation technology to increase driver productivity. In particular, touchscreen displays and custom-tailored workflow applications are changing how drivers interact with technology to accomplish more with less effort.
In the past, communications between the office and cab were limited to voice and free-form text messaging. To improve efficiency, fleets and technology providers developed specific message sets or “macros.” When a driver arrives at a pickup location and presses an “arrive” key, he would enter data such as a bill-of-lading number and piece count, and send the message.
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